Yes, it will take you a solid seven hours just to get to the trailhead. And sure, rattlesnakes are a bit of an “issue” out here. Plus, you probably won’t see another human on this trip. But this odyssey, which follows a “bench” about halfway between the Snake River and Summit Ridge, in the middle of the deepest river gorge in North America, rewards every ounce of effort. Straddling Oregon and Idaho, the canyon itself is a marvel—barren, steep slopes mix with towering peaks, alpine lakes, sprawling grasslands, and groves of ponderosa pine. And this particular route, though harrowing and quite rugged, provides a zigzagging tour of the canyon’s offerings. Bring plenty of water, and clear out plenty of room on your camera.
DIRECTIONS: From OR 82 in Joseph, turn north on OR 350/Imnaha Highway and follow it 30 miles to the little town of Imnaha. Across from the post office, turn right onto Upper Imnaha River Road, continue 12.4 miles, and then turn left onto Road 4230, which forks almost immediately; bear left. Follow to its end at the Freezeout trailhead, which is accessible most of the year, but occasionally blocked by snow; check conditions with the Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center.